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Participative assessment of innovative technical scenarios for enhancing sustainability of French mixed crop-livestock farms

Ryschawy J., Joannon A., Choisis J.P., Gibon A., Le Gal P.Y.. 2014. Agricultural Systems, 129 : p. 1-8.

DOI: 10.18167/DVN1/NZHWQQ

DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2014.05.004

Mixed crop-livestock farming is regaining interest worldwide as a way to reduce environmental problems while allowing productive and economically viable agriculture. However, the number of mixed crop-livestock farms has been falling steadily in Europe, where production has become concentrated on specialised and enlarged farms. This study aimed to design and assess technical innovations which could enhance the sustainability of mixed farming in the difficult conditions of Less Favoured Areas. It was conducted in a hilly region in south-western France where mixed crop-livestock farming continues to be practiced. Innovative technical scenarios consistent with the two main adaptive strategies implemented by local mixed farms were selected with farmers and other stakeholders. The first, the "maximising farm autonomy" strategy, consisted of sowing forage legumes between two cash crops to achieve herd feed self-sufficiency while maintaining soil fertility. The second, the "diversifying production" management strategy, consisted of adding a heifer fattening unit to increase farm income. Both scenarios were assessed on two actual farms using a whole farm simulation tool, CLIFS, based on feed and manure balances. They then were combined with prospective scenarios on public policies and markets to analyse farmers' capacity to cope with changes in their economic environment. Under current conditions, the two technical innovations allowed an increase of the total gross margin per hectare of cultivated area by respectively 8.9% and 17.1%. However, under contrasting future political and economic conditions, they were unable to mitigate the impact of drastic shocks. Public policy support would likely be needed to maintain local mixed crop-livestock farms in these contexts. The combination of discussions and simulations using concrete farm cases ensured a lively dialogue between researchers, farmers, and professionals. The process combined a broad range of empirical, technical and scientific knowledge and enriched both individual and collective learning.

Mots-clés : france

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